John Milton: Poet, Priest and Prophet

A Study of Divine Vocation in Milton's Poetry and Prose


©   John Spencer Hill


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Chapter 4

Paradise Lost

[115]   When he took occasion in The Reason of Church-Government to "covnant with any knowing reader" about his poetic aspirations, Milton had not yet decided definitely on the subject or form of the great work that he promised to compose "some few yeers" hence, once the nation "had . . . infranchis'd her self from [the] impertinent yoke of prelaty" and he had been freed from ecclesiastical controversy to return to his interrupted poetic preparation.   However, despite his indecision over theme and mode, there were certain aspects of the projected poem that he was able to describe with precision and conviction, even in 1642.   In the first place, having chosen "these British Ilands as my world", he would compose a work of national significance (perhaps on a theme drawn from English history) and would write it in the vernacular.   He was still committed to the resolve, first articulated in the Vacation Exercise of 1628, "to fix all the industry and art I could unite to the adorning of my native tongue; not to make verbal curiosities the end, that were a toylsom vanity, but to be an interpreter & relater of the best and sagest things among mine own Citizens throughout this Iland in the mother dialect" (YP, I, pp. 811-12).   Secondly, the prospective poem, set firmly in the docere cum delectatione tradition of Christian humanist poetics, would be didactic; it would seek to inculcate virtue and morality by "teaching over the whole book of sanctity and vertu through all the instances of example with such delight to those especially of soft and delicious temper who will not so much as look upon Truth herself, unlesse they see her elegantly drest" (ibid., pp. 817-18).   Thirdly, since the religious poet's gift of song is "of power beside the office of a pulpit, to imbreed in a great people the seeds of vertu, and publick civility . . . [and] to celebrate in glorious and lofty Hymns the throne and equipage of Gods Almightinesse" (ibid., pp. 816-17), Milton himself would stand to his audience in the relation not only of teacher but also of inspired poet-priest mediating divine truth to his fellow men.   And finally, [116] he knew that his promised poem would be the product of human industry guided and sustained by divine grace, that its execution depended upon "devout prayer to that eternall Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge" together with the poet's own contributions of "industrious and select reading, steddy observation, [and] insight into all seemly and generous arts and affaires" (ibid., pp. 820-1).
      Each of these expectations was eventually fulfilled in Paradise Lost--though not always in exactly the way in which Milton had originally intended.   On the one hand, his sense of divine guidance and inspiration, deepened by his experience as a prophet of reformation in the prose works, came to rich fruition in the invocations in Paradise Lost (see Chapter 3, pp. 108-12).   On the other hand, however, his plan to compose a great national poem underwent substantial revision.   The initial conception had been firmly based on apocalyptic expectations and a conviction of England's special status in the designs of Providence.   As I suggested earlier (Chapter 3, p. 78), the original plan was to write a poem celebrating the (imminent) establishment of the English New Jerusalem and calling upon God's Englishmen to prepare themselves both spiritually and morally for the advent of the earthly Kingdom and the reign of the saints which was to precede the Parousia.   Within this context of millennial optimism poetry and prophecy were inextricably intertwined, and the promised poem was intended to glorify God for His signal mercies to the English nation and to exhort the nation to continuing reformation and obedience to her covenantal mission.   But the failure of the Puritan theocracy--or rather abortive series of theocracies--made necessary a fundamental revision of the original conception formulated in the early 1640s.
      When Milton began the composition of Paradise Lost, probably in 1658 but perhaps earlier in the decade,1 the need to admonish his fellow countrymen of their high calling and to impress upon them their covenantal responsibility was a matter of immediate and pressing concern.   By the time the Protectorate was established in 1653 the national mission as Milton conceived it had been abandoned by the Presbyterians on the theological right and by many of the sects on the Puritan left; the national destiny lay precariously in the hands of Oliver Cromwell and his dwindled remnant of advisers and supporters--a remnant which shrank yet further in the years between 1653 and 1658.   After the Lord Protector's death in September 1658, the political situation [117] became acute, then desperate and, finally, hopeless.   Throughout this period of national disintegration, as the shadows of returning night lengthened over the wan face of his departing dream, Milton laboured tirelessly--but in vain--to rouse the consciences of his countrymen (or at least the "sensible and ingenuous" among them) and to recall them to the continuing need for regeneration.   The slender hopes of national rebirth that he still cherished in the pamphlets of 1659-60, however, were erased forever by the Restoration in May 1660; and the depth of Milton's despair may be gauged by Paradise Lost, a poem originally planned to honour a restored Paradise in England.   Significantly, England is never mentioned in the epic; indeed, even in Michael's brief resume of church history from the time of the Apostles to the Last Judgment (XII, 502-43) there is no reference to English affairs.   On the contrary, with no mention of the Reformation at all--whether in England or on the Continent--Michael's narrative traces the progressive decline of the church from its apostolic purity, a descent arrested only by the Day of Judgment:

                                    truth shall retire
Bestuck with slanderous darts, and works of faith
Rarely be found:  so shall the world go on,
To good malignant, to bad men benign,
Under her own weight groaning till the day
Appear of respiration to the just,
And vengeance to the wicked . . . .          (XII, 535-41)

      At first sight the collapse of the Puritan theocracy and final abnegation of the national covenant at the Restoration might seem to have left Milton as a poet-prophet without either a cause or a poetic theme--but such, of course, was not the case.   He simply turned his attention in Paradise Lost from national to individual vocation and regeneration; as Tillyard succinctly expresses it, "The 'paradise within' is the substitute for the paradise on earth, now proved to be impossible of achievement".2   The transition, however, is not as abrupt as it may appear when stated so baldly.   Throughout the period of the public prose Milton served as God's voice to the chosen people of England.   The nation as a whole was bound by the national covenant and Milton's role, as prophet, was to exhort his countrymen to fulfil the obligations [118] which the covenant imposed upon them.   Nevertheless, while all were called, not all responded; and, even among those who did initially respond, the incidence of backsliding accelerated alarmingly after 1643.   As increasing defection from the national mission made it ever clearer that "they are not all Israel, which are of Israel", Milton was constrained to alter his prophetic stance in order to adapt it to this new and disquieting situation.   He did so, I believe, in two important respects.   In the first place, his expectations of the general English populace diminished rapidly and his assessment of them became correspondingly harsher--in 1644 they were potentially "a Nation of Prophets, of Sages, and of Worthies", by 1649 they had been demoted to "an inconstant, irrational, and Image-doting rabble", and in 1660 the "perverse inhabitants" of England were dismissed with asperity as "a misguided and abus'd multitude".3   There is a change, too, in the tone of Milton's prophetic voice as the prose progresses, for the buoyant optimism of the antiprelatical tracts, reminiscent of Deutero-Isaiah, modulates gradually but inexorably through the divorce and regicide tracts toward the stern Amos-like pessimism of the pamphlets of 1659-60.   In the second place, as the task of fulfilling the national vocation devolved upon an (ever decreasing) elect remnant representing the "true" England, Milton's emphasis shifts perceptibly from national election in its broadest sense to a concern for individual calling and renovation.   From Areopagitica on, the prose works stress the importance of private religious experience, and there is a growing prominence accorded such topics as conscience, the inner light, and the role of recta ratio.   Indeed, by the time one reaches the tracts of 1659-60, the actual political theories there propounded-- although these are the pamphlets' ostensible raisons d'ętre--are less important than the spiritual doctrines that underpin them; for, in the final analysis, these last pamphlets must be approached as essays on the right use of Christian liberty and oblique statements of the regenerative process on which that individual liberty depends.
      The internalisation of Eden, then, and the search for the "fit audience, though few"4 was under way well before the composition of Paradise Lost was begun.   But Milton's longest and most important prose discussion of the "paradise within" is found not in the eristic pamphlets but rather in his anatomy of the mechanics of spiritual rebirth in De Doctrina Christiana.   This treatise is of special interest to readers of Paradise Lost both because its composition [119] overlaps that of the epic5 and also because its exposition of doctrine is frequently an indispensable guide to understanding the poem's theological emphases.   There is a sense in which De Doctrina Christiana may properly be regarded as a "prose gloss" on Paradise Lost--but there are dangers involved in any literal or insensitive application of this precept.6   To use the treatise as an ideological template for the epic is to ignore the qualitative difference between prose statements and poetic statements; and the result is invariably crippling to the latter.   Milton's concern in Paradise Lost is not with the forensic exposition of doctrine but rather with its mimetic representation within a narrative framework; and in a similar way, the critic must endeavour to imitate his author by applying the doctrinal assertions of De Doctrina Christiana to the epic with sensitivity, insight, and imagination--laxis effertur habenis.   It is a case of the letter killing but the spirit giving life.
      While many aspects of Milton's theology in De Doctrina Christiana might be (or have already been) profitably explored for the light they can throw on Paradise Lost, there is perhaps none so fruitful as his view of personal vocation, renovation, and regeneration.   Not only are these doctrines important cornerstones in Milton's soteriology, but they appear to have been matters of central concern to him over a considerable period of time.   As he struggled to articulate his theological system, he found himself returning again and again to these themes.   Arthur Barker, indeed, has pointed out that "The extant revisions and additions made in the manuscript of De Doctrina all focus attention on his preoccupation with redemption and the process of regeneration and the Christian liberty resulting from the process; the most obvious clusters of revisions occur in the chapters on Christ's mediatorial office, on man's 'natural renovation' and 'calling', on his 'supernatural renovation' and 'regeneration' and 'being planted in Christ', on the Covenant of Grace, including Law and Gospel, on Christian liberty."7   Barker's contention is that Milton's last poems "use . . . all the doctrines to which the manuscript revisions call attention" and "elaborate and represent his notions about the process of regeneration by filling in, mimetically, what De Doctrina leaves confused, its operation even under pre-Christian dispensations".8   These observations are, I believe, both profound and exciting.
      Milton asserts categorically in his chapter on divine decrees in [120] De Doctrina Christiana that "by virtue of his wisdom God decreed the creation of angels and men as beings gifted with reason and thus with free will" (YP, VI, p. 164).   The doctrine of free will is the keystone of his soteriology in the prose treatise (cf. Introduction)--and it is also the theological centre of Paradise Lost.   Not only is it a doctrine invoked in numerous asides and allusions throughout the poem, but it is also a subject elaborated in set-speeches delivered by most of the principal speakers:   God in III, 98-128 and V, 233-45; Satan in IV, 66-72; Raphael in V, 520-43 and VIII, 635-43; Adam in IX, 343-56; and Michael in XII, 82-96.   There are two significant implications of Milton's doctrine of free will which merit brief mention here, although I shall defer examining their poetic ramifications for the moment.   First, divine decrees are absolute with respect to God Himself (whose perfection is immutable) but contingent with respect to creatures (whose perfection is mutable):   "On the one hand is the universal process of God's ways; on the other the process of individual experience which fulfils itself in the degree to which it corresponds with God's ways . . . . 9   In other words, God's decrees, which are an aspect of His internal efficiency (DDC, I, iii; YP, VI, p. 153), are necessarily as eternal and invariable as God Himself who has promulgated them; however, the fulfilment of these immutable decrees depends upon mutable, potentially inconstant agents endowed with free will.   Second, free will presupposes the possibility of choice; it implies, that is, the existence of (mutally exclusive) alternatives between which an individual may freely choose.   In the postlapsarian predicament the choice is between known good and known evil;10 in the prelapsarian situation it is between known good and potential evil, for, as unfallen Adam explains to Eve after her dream,

Evil into the mind of god [i.e. angel] or man
May come and go, so unapproved, and leave
No spot or blame behind.           (V, 117-19)

In either case the choice ultimately resolves itself into an option to obey God's declared will and an option to disobey the divine will by acceding to the promptings of one's selfish will.   Free will, then, involves choosing between God and the self; and what free will provides is the opportunity to grow either toward God or away [121] from Him.   Self-knowledge requires the abnegation of self-will, for the predicate of self-knowledge is God, not the self; that is to say, self-knowledge means knowledge of the self in God and in relation to God--sum quia in Deo sum.   Paradoxically, then, to attain self-knowledge the free agent must freely will to relax the will, so that his own individual will may become continuous with God's will.11  The poetic elaboration of this paradox--expressed in antithetical images of reason and passion, abstinence and appetite, light and darkness--leads (as we shall see) to the heart of Adam's vocation and education both as pre- and post-lapsarian man.
      But a vocation to self-knowledge is not restricted to the human protagonists alone. In the moral universe of Paradise Lost all creatures are endowed with free will; all are called to respond positively to the promptings of the divine will revealed to them through the faculty of recta ratio and to serve freely as instruments of that will.   "What God consistently gives his responsive creatures", Barker writes, "is an opportunity to respond to his providential processes--and to all creatures in his own good time."12   At the same time, however, every situation by which a free agent is confronted offers the possibility of wrong choice.   The most obvious instance, perhaps occurs in the case of Abdiel, who follows Satan initially but whose right reason leads him to check his revolt from God as soon as he recognises his potential disobedience for what it is:

          the seraph Abdiel faithful found,
Among the faithless, faithful only he;
Among innumerable false, unmoved,
Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal;
Nor number nor example with him wrought
To swerve from truth, or change his constant mind
Though single.                     (V, 896-903)

Abdiel's zealous obedience provides the most striking instance of spiritual heroism in the poem because it is the most dramatic example of loyalty and unswerving rectitude.   Nevertheless, as Stanley Fish points out, "Abdiel has always been heroic since he has always been free to disavow his allegiance to God, and to date [122] he has declined to do so, at every moment of his life.   The reader just happens to be there when Abdiel is being heroic in a conspicuously dramatic context."13   In a similar way, but in less histrionic circumstances, each character in the epic is invited in every act (physical or mental) that he performs to reconfirm his elect status as a son of God; and every situation provides him with an opportunity for disobedience and the wilful repudiation of his calling.   Conversely, a positive response to one's calling frequently results in gains in self-knowledge.   Both Abdiel and Michael, for example, are taught important lessons about the limits of angelic power by their respective failures in armed combat against the rebellious Satan; Raphael, too, is educated in the inadequacy of his own understanding and the limits of angelic percipience as he struggles to fulfil his commission of enlightenment by accommodating divine truths to human sense and responding (as best he can) to Adam's requests for instruction.14
      Free will and the opportunity for responsive growth are also extended to Christ.   Although Milton reserves his full treatment of this theme for the characterisation of the incarnate Son in Paradise Regained, he anticipates this later presentation by depicting Christ in Paradise Lost as a free agent who willingly responds to his messianic vocation.   In pronouncing prospective doom on Man for his foreseen transgression, the Father declares that Adam

      with his whole posterity must die,
Die he or justice must; unless for him
Some other able, and as willing, pay
The rigid satisfaction, death for death.           (III, 209-12)

This judgment is greeted by "silence in heaven" until the Son freely offers himself in atonement for man's sin:

Account me man; I for his sake will leave
Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee
Freely put off , and for him lastly die
Well pleased . . . .           (238-41)

What is significant about Christ's offer is not only that it is an act of spontaneous free will but also that it is made without [123] foreknowledge of the result.   His response is based on faith and his trust in God's goodness:

      on me let Death wreak all his rage;
Under his gloomy power I shall not long
Lie vanquished; thou hast given me to possess
Life in my self for ever, by thee I live,
Though now to Death I yield, and am his due
All that of me can die, yet that debt paid,
Thou wilt not leave me in the loathsome grave
His prey, nor suffer my unspotted soul
For ever with corruption there to dwell;
But I shall rise victorious, and subdue
My vanquisher, spoiled of his vaunted spoil;
Death his death's wound shall then receive, and stoop
Inglorious, of his mortal sting disarmed.
I through the ample air in triumph high
Shall lead hell captive maugre hell, and show
The powers of darkness bound.   Thou at the sight
Pleased, out of heaven shalt look down and smile,
While by thee raised I ruin all my foes,
Death last, and with his carcass glut the grave:
Then with the multitude of my redeemed
Shall enter heaven long absent, and return,
Father, to see thy face, wherein no cloud
Of anger shall remain, but peace assured,
And reconcilement . . . .           (241-64)

Milton's reader, his understanding directed by scriptural allusion (e.g. 1 Cor 15: 54-5), immediately recognises this speech as an accurate resume of Christ's mission of salvation and its promised consummation at the end of time.   But the reader's perspective here is not Christ's--for the reader, who knows the Bible, understands the narrative partly as history (fulfilled revelation) and partly as prophecy (revelation yet to be fulfilled), whereas for Christ the whole action is prospective.   This point is important, for, if the reader fails to distinguish between what he knows and what Christ predicts about his mission, he runs the risk of serious misinterpretation, either by ascribing to the Son a prescience which (for Milton) he does not possess or, more grievously, by [124] interpreting the Atonement offer as a pre-arranged scenario between the Father and the Son.
      In fact, however, the scene is intended to function as a trial of the Son's vocational obedience.   The request for a mediator, an invitation extended to the entire heavenly host, is designed as a test of the Son's willingness to respond to his calling and to fulfil freely the decree of conditional mercy on behalf of fallen men.15   Indeed, with due allowance for the nature of its divine participants, the scene is a poetic representation of what Milton elsewhere calls a good temptation:  "Good temptations are those which God uses to tempt even righteous men, in order to prove them.   He does this not for his own sake--as if he did not know what sort of men they would turn out to be--but either to exercise or demonstrate their faith or patience." (DDC, I, viii; YP, VI, p. 338) God, of course, who is omniscient, knows that the Son will accept the role decreed for him ("man shall find grace", III, 131); but He no more forces the Son's obedience here than He does the disobedience of Adam and Eve in Book IX.   Like Adam, Christ is a free agent, and he responds to his calling without constraint or necessity.   Moreover, his response to the Father's offer of mercy for man is prompted by his knowledge of God and not by his foreknowledge of events:   God has promised him eternal life and he knows, therefore, that He will "not leave me in the loathsome grave" as Death's prey, but rather "I shall rise victorious, and subdue/ My vanquisher".   The Son's willing submission to His Father's will and unquestioning faith in His promises, however, strengthens his vocational awareness and does enable him to forecast, without absolutely foreknowing, the general pattern of events--he "foresees" the Resurrection, for example, but not the Crucifixion--and the essentials of his messianic mission.
      Having offered himself in atonement, the Son "attends the will/ of his great Father", and "Admiration seized/ All heaven, what this might mean" (270-2).   The Father does not hold them long in suspense.   He discloses a further detail about His Son's career (viz. incarnation by virgin birth), outlines the method of salvation by revealing the doctrines of solifidianism and imputed merit, and rewards Christ's obedience by exalting him over all other creatures--

Because thou hast
                . . . . . . . . . .
                                         been found
[125]   By merit more than birthright Son of God,
Found worthiest to be so by being good,
Far more than great or high; because in thee
Love hath abounded more than glory abounds,
Therefore thy humiliation shall exalt
With thee thy manhood also to this throne,
Here shalt thou sit incarnate,
                . . . . . . . . . .
                                       all power
I give thee, reign for ever, and assume
Thy merits; under thee as head supreme
Thrones, princedoms, powers, dominions I reduce:
All knees to thee shall bow, of them that bide
In heaven, or earth, or under earth in hell.           (305-22)

The Father concludes his speech with further revelations concerning the Last Judgment, Millennium, and exaltation of the just.   And finally, the council in heaven closes as the host take up their harps to hymn the Father's mercy and to praise the Son's responsive submission to His Father's providential purpose:

No sooner did thy dear and only Son
Perceive thee purposed not to doom frail man,
So strictly, but much more to pity inclined,
He to appease thy wrath, and end the strife
Of mercy and justice in thy face discerned,
Regardless of the bliss wherein he sat
Second to thee, offered himself to die
For man's offence.           (403-10)

After his incarnation the Messiah will face more trials of vocational obedience and will learn further facts about his calling--but that story is reserved for Paradise Regained and for a later chapter.
      The central vocational interest in Paradise Lost is, of course, centred on Adam's responses--both prelapsarian and postlapsarian--to God's prompting and providential processes; and what applies to Adam directly is intended, by inference and analogy, to be seen as applicable to the poem's reader as well.16   Although it is impossible in a single chapter to give these topics the detailed attention they merit, I shall attempt at least to [126] elaborate some of the more important patterns.


As Barbara Lewalski has demonstrated in a brilliant essay, Milton's Eden is distinguished from the paradisic gardens both of classical mythology and of traditional exegesis by virtue of the fact that Edenic life in Paradise Lost is characterised not by static and stable perfection but rather by "radical growth and process."17   From their first moments of life Adam and Eve grow in self-knowledge and in knowledge of their world and their Creator.   The poem's imagery makes it clear that they are not only gardeners placed in Eden by the "sovereign Planter" (IV, 691) but that they are themselves part of the garden and are responsible for perfecting their own natures, for cultivating the "paradise within" of which the external garden is the physical correlative: "Adam and Eve, like the Garden, have natures capable of a prodigious growth of good things, but which require constant pruning to remove excessive or unsightly growth, constant direction of overreaching tendencies, constant propping of possible weaknesses, and also, one supposes, further cultivation through art."18   And Professor Lewalski concludes her argument by pointing out that Milton's treatment of the prelapsarian state effects a redefinition of the Life of Innocence that is "virtually unique":

Milton's vision of the prelapsarian life admits no dichotomy between the states of Innocence and Experience:   they are not, as in Blake, "two contradictory states of the human soul".   Rather, the Edenic portion of Paradise Lost displays the process whereby Adam and Eve grow in knowledge and acquire experience within the State of Innocence, and thereby become steadily more complex, more conscious of manifold challenges and difficulties, more aware of large responsibilities, and by this very process, more complete and more perfect . . . .   Such an imagination of the State of Innocence sets the Fall in the proper tragic perspective in the poem, as the event which blasted man's opportunity to develop--without suffering, violence, despair and death, though not in the least without tension and trial--the rich resources and large potentialities of the human spirit.19

  [127]     Gifted with free will and endowed with right reason, our first parents are set in Eden and vested with the responsibility of working out the full potential of their protogenic humanity.   Their vocation, then, is pre-eminently a calling to self-definition; and, as each new experience occasions a response and leads them a step further on the path of self-discovery, they grow in vocational awareness and are instructed in the limits of human knowledge and power.   Their education proceeds, however, by trial and error, leaving room not only for mistake and misjudgment20 but also for wilful disobedience and self-interest.   As Arthur Barker observes, "Every prelapsarian incident in the poem involves for Adam and Eve (as for all its other creatures) a "calling", and every prelapsarian incident illustrates the possibility of refusal."21   Their benevolent Creator has provided them with all things necessary to proper development.   He has granted them recta ratio to distinguish good from evil and has sown within them "the seeds of sufficient determining" (YP, II, p. 679); and in every new situation they experience He is their guide, unobstrusively calling them to respond to the unseen prompting of His divine will.   But they are free to refuse.   Indeed, Satan is not the only--or even the major--threat to their happiness, for unfallen man is potentially his own worst enemy--as is clear both from Eve's narcissistic response to her reflection in the pool (IV, 453-69) and Adam's admission of profane passion (VIII, 530-59).   And the point is reinforced at a critical moment before the Fall when Adam "fervently" reminds his headstrong spouse, as she sets off alone with blithe insouciance to exercise her fugitive and cloistered virtue, that

            best are all things as the will
Of God ordained them, his creating hand
Nothing imperfect or deficient left
Of all that he created, much less man,
Or aught that might his happy state secure,
Secure from outward force; within himself
The danger lies, yet lies within his power:
Against his will he can receive no harm.           (IX, 343-50)

From the violence of physical attack they are protected by the arm of Omnipotence.   The real danger is internal and lies in their use of free will; for, as God had earlier remarked, "I formed them free, [128] and free they must remain,/ Till they enthrall themselves" (III, 124-5).   Thus, the essence of their prelapsarian education hinges on right response to the "good temptations" (cf. p. 124) presented in every new situation that they encounter.
      In Milton's Eden education is synonymous with responsive growth.   The teminus a quo of the educative process is the mere self or (to borrow a phrase from King Lear) "unaccommodated man"; the terminus ad quem is accommodated man, that is, the individual self fulfilled and realised in God.   Paradoxically, then, self-knowledge is the result of self-abnegating self-determination, and true liberty is only achieved by denying personal freedom and binding one's self to God.   This paradox is developed in Paradise Lost through the doctrine of "mutable perfection"--a theme which Raphael elaborates for Adam's benefit in an important speech in Book V:

O Adam, one almighty is, from whom
All things proceed, and up to him return,
If not depraved from good, created all
Such to perfection, one first matter all,
Indued with various forms, various degrees
Of substance, and in things that live, of life;
But more refined, more spirituous, and pure,
As nearer to him placed or nearer tending
Each in their several active spheres assigned,
Till body up to spirit work, in bounds
Proportioned to each kind.   So from the root
Springs lighter the green stalk, from thence the leaves
More airy, last the bright consummate flower
Spirits odorous breathes:   flowers and their fruit
Man's nourishment, by gradual scale sublimed
To vital spirits aspire, to animal,
To intellectual, give both life and sense,
Fancy and understanding, whence the soul
Reason receives, and reason is her being,
Discursive, or intuitive; discourse
Is oftest yours, the latter most is ours,
Differing but in degree, of kind the same.
Wonder not then, what God for you saw good
If I refuse not, but convert, as you,
To proper substance, time may come when men
[129]   With angels may participate, and find
No inconvenient diet, nor too light fare:
And from these corporal nutriments perhaps
Your bodies may at last turn all to spirit,
Improved by tract of time, and winged ascend
Ethereal, as we, or may at choice
Here or in heavenly paradises dwell;
If ye be found obedient, and retain
Unalterably firm his love entire
Whose progeny you are.           (469-503)

This speech is more than an embellished restatement of the common Neoplatonic conception of man's assigned station on the scala naturae or chain of being.   What Raphael is saying, in fact, is that neither man's place nor that of other creatures in the hierarchy of being is fixed and unalterable.   Using the traditional plant image as well as his own angelic digestive process as analogies, he explains the potential for growth that is inherent in the entire natura naturata.   In the prelapsarian situation, all of created nature--and, for Milton, creation is de Deo not ex nihilo (DDC, I, vii; YP, VI, p. 308)--is perfect because it is ex substantia Dei, yet mutable because its perfection is relative rather than absolute.   Within this context of mutable perfection individual beings are assigned to "their several active spheres" where they strive, "in bounds/ Proportioned to each kind", to transform corporeal into spiritual substance.
      But man's position in the creaturely hierarchy and his place in the process of potential growth is unique.   It is also more complex than that of other creatures, for man's nature is more complex.   According to Sir Thomas Browne, "Man [is] that great and true Amphibium, whose nature is disposed to live, not onely like other creatures in divers elements, but in [the] divided and distinguished worlds" of matter and spirit.22   The dualism of human nature complicates man's vocational duty, for (unlike the creatures below him in the scala naturae) he is conscious of his responsibility and is, therefore, directly accountable for his actions and decisions.   Inferior beings respond to God's providential processes by instinct, but men (and angels) do so by choice.   Like the other creatures, mankind is created "perfect"--that is, perfect relative to his assigned station in the hierarchy of being; however, since he [30] possesses reason and free will, his "mutability"--that is, his potential for growth either toward or away from God--lies strictly within his own power and his free use of these divine faculties:

God made thee perfect, not immutable;
And good he made thee, but to persevere
He left it in thy power, ordained thy will
By nature free, not over-ruled by fate
Inextricable, or strict necessity;
Our voluntary service he requires,
Not our necessitated . . . .           (V, 524- 30)

Like the angels above him (notice Raphael's shift from "thee" to "our"), Adam is called to serve his Creator voluntarily through responsive choices which both confirm and advance his spiritual status.
      At their creation Adam and Eve have two injunctions placed upon them:   a negative command instructing them not to taste the fruit of the interdicted tree, and a positive command enjoining them to "Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth,/ Subdue it, and throughout dominion hold" (VII, 531-2).   Thus, prelapsarian obedience involves both abstinence and active involvement, both a "thou shalt not" and a "thou shalt".   The negative command, arbitrary and unimportant per se, is a "good temptation" which is designed to test our first parents' unquestioning faith and obedience.   The positive command--to subdue the earth and hold dominion over it--is more complex, because more is involved in fulfilling it.   Adam and Eve, as has been pointed out, are not only Eden's gardeners but are also themselves part of the garden they are instructed to cultivate, and their responsibility for pruning "wanton growth" (IX, 211) extends inward as well as outward.   They are called to govern and direct the growth of human nature as well as of external nature; and, as Adam is led to see, the striving for upward growth in the natural world provides a pattern and exemplum for man's ideal development:

O favourable spirit, propitious guest,
Well hast thou taught the way that might direct
Our knowledge, and the scale of nature set
[131]   From centre to circumference, whereon
In contemplation of created things
By steps we may ascend to God.           (V, 307-12)

Alastair Fowler (PM, p. 705n) finds a parallel for Milton's prelapsarian teleology in the Pauline doctrine of change from corruptible to incorruptible in 1 Corinthians 15.   This analogue, however, obscures perhaps more than it reveals.   In the first place, whereas St Paul's reference is to a postlapsarian change of state from mortality to immortality, the change envisaged for unfallen Adam and Eve is one of degree rather than of kind--a change from relative to absolute perfection. Second, while the postlapsarian transformation takes place "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump" (1 Cor. 15: 52), the prelapsarian ascent to God is seen to be a slow and gradual process. God Himself describes what is involved when He decrees the creation of man and his establishment on earth:

                                [I] will create
Another world, out of one man a race
Of men innumerable, there to dwell,
Not here, till by degrees of merit raised
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried,
And earth be changed to heaven, and heaven to earth,
One kingdom, joy and union without end.           (VII, 154-61)

God's use of the word "merit" both underscores the distinction between pre- and postlapsarian man and, as well, throws into stark relief the real tragedy implied in the Fall--namely, the irremediable loss of man's potential for self-development.   In the unfallen world Adam and Eve have not only an opportunity but also a vocational obligation to grow toward God; they are able to earn heaven by their own merit, to ascend by stages to absolute perfection by obedient response to their Creator's will.   After the Fall, however, man may co-operate in the work of salvation but he cannot contribute to it; capable of earning nothing for himself, the sinner is raised to heaven only because Christ's merit is, by a legal fiction, imputed to him (see Introduction, p. 17).   Man's good works are [132] efficacious before the Fall but not after it; human merit is purely a prelapsarian phenomenon.
      An important leitmotiv running through Adam and Eve's prelapsarian education is that man must govern his development and keep it "within bounds".   Poetically, this theme is elaborated largely through images of appetite.   In the early books the word appetite is reserved for gustatory desire:   IV, 330; V, 85 and 305; VII, 49.   However, Raphael develops the metaphorical implications of the image in an instructive speech in Book VII:

Yet what thou canst attain, which best may serve
To glorify the maker, and infer
Thee also happier, shall not be withheld
Thy hearing, such commission from above
I have received, to answer thy desire
Of knowledge within bounds; beyond abstain
To ask, nor let thine own inventions hope
Things not revealed, which the invisible king,
Only omniscient, hath suppressed in night,
To none communicable in earth or heaven:
Enough is left besides to search and know.
But knowledge is as food, and needs no less
Her temperance over appetite, to know
In measure what the mind may well contain,
Oppresses else with surfeit, and soon turns
Wisdom to folly, as nourishment to wind.           (115-30)

Like all other created beings, man has been assigned his own sphere of activity--a sphere bounded and proportioned to his specific nature, needs and potential.   Human happiness and spiritual growth depend on living within prescribed limits.   To attempt to surpass those limits in knowledge, to attempt to become more than human (as Satan had tried to become more than archangelic), is both presumptuous and sinful.   Knowledge, Raphael argues, ceases to be wisdom when it becomes an end in itself rather than a means toward understanding, within permissible limits, the nature of man and God.   And in a later speech he warns Adam of the penalty for intellectual overreaching when he admonishes him to "govern well thy appetite, lest Sin/ Surprise [133] thee, and her black attendant Death" (VII, 546-7).
      In Book VIII the theme of ungoverned appetite is developed in a way that demonstrates clearly Milton's architectonic skill.   Although the book has not, for the most part, been kindly treated by the critics, it is one of the most interesting sections of the poem from a structural point of view.   At the end of Book VII, having finished his account of the Creation, Raphael invites further inquiries from Adam:   "if else thou seek'st/ Aught, not surpassing human measure, say" (VII, 639-40); and his offer leads in the opening lines of Book VIII to Adam's queries about the nature and construction of the universe.   By observation and through the use of reason Adam has worked out for himself the essentials of the geocentric theory of Ptolemaic cosmology--but "something yet of doubt remains" (VIII, 13), and he raises some of the Copernican objections to the Ptolemaic theory and asks his angelic tutor to solve the difficulty for him.   (Eve, who has been listening until now, sees the technical direction that the discussion is taking and retires to her nursery to tend her flowers, leaving the men to their talk.)   Raphael is sympathetic to Adam's curiosity and does not condemn his desire for astronomical knowledge:   "To ask or search I blame thee not, for heaven/ Is as the book of God before thee set" (66-7); and he supplements Adam's observations with additional scientific facts and speculative suggestions.   But he does not resolve the issue of geocentric and heliocentric astronomy for Adam, because there are limitations placed on man's knowledge and Adam is not entitled to absolute understanding of God's mysterious ways.   While astronomical speculation is permitted as an academic exercise, Raphael makes it clear that absolute knowledge on the topic is both unnecessary and forbidden, and he counsels Adam not to solicit his mind with the mysteries of divine Providence:   "heaven is for thee too high/ To know what passes there; be lowly wise:/ Think only what concerns thee and thy being" (172-4).   And the Archangel's warning draws from Adam a positive recognition of the vanity and potential danger of speculating about things remote from human life:

                                  to know
That which before us lies in daily life,
Is the prime wisdom, what is more, is fume,
Or emptiness, or fond impertinence,
[134]  And renders us in things that most concern
Unpractised, unprepared, and still to seek.           (192-7)

Having seen that "wisdom" involves recognising one's proper limitations and acquiring only so much knowledge as is appropriate to the human condition, Adam abandons the "high pitch" of astronomical speculation and proposes to "descend/ A lower flight, and speak of things at hand/ Useful" (198-200).   He narrates to Raphael, who was away on an errand when man was created, what he remembers of his creation and his first few hours of life; he speaks of his intuitive sense that he had been formed by "some great maker", tells of his installation in Eden, his meeting with his Creator, his naming of the animals, and the fashioning of Eve from his rib.   But the creation of Eve brought a problem in its wake:

                    here passion first I felt,
Commotion strange, in all enjoyments else
Superior and unmoved, here only weak
Against the charm of beauty's powerful glance.           (530-3)

And, after the dangerous speculation that the Creator may have blundered in not arming him sufficiently against this threat, he continues:

For well I understand in the prime end
Of nature her the inferior, in the mind
And inward faculties, which most excel,
In outward also her resembling less
His image who made both, and less expressing
The character of that dominion given
O'er other creatures; yet when I approach
Her loveliness, so absolute she seems
And in her self complete, so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say,
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best;
All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded, wisdom in discourse with her
Loses discountenanced, and like folly shows;
[135]  Authority and reason on her wait,
As one intended first, not after made
Occasionally; and to consummate all,
Greatness of mind and nobleness their seat
Build in her loveliest, and create an awe
About her, as a guard angelic placed.           (540-59)

Adam is here on the verge of idolatry, and it is not surprising that having heard this confession Raphael should reply "with contracted brow".   Not only has Adam questioned the Creator's judgment but he has given carnal passion precedence over sacred love.   Playing Socrates to Adam's Agathon, Raphael undertakes to set his pupil's affections in right tune by summarising for him the Platonic doctrine of love in the Symposium:

What higher in her society thou find'st
Attractive, human, rational, love still;
In loving thou dost well, in passion not,
Wherein true love consists not; love refines
The thoughts, and heart enlarges, hath his seat
In reason, and is judicious, is the scale
By which to heavenly love thou mayst ascend,
Not sunk in carnal pleasure, for which cause
Among the beasts no mate for thee was found.           (586-94)

True love is ennobling, not enslaving; it leads from flesh to spirit, from profane to sacred.   Although these ideas are the common property of Renaissance Neoplatonism, Milton is using them here to develop with respect to passion the point he had made earlier in relation to knowledge.   Passion is to love as knowledge is to wisdom; and, as "knowledge is as food, and needs no less/ Her temperance over appetite", so too passion is an appetite that must be governed by reason and will:   "take heed lest passion sway/ Thy judgment to do aught, which else free will/ Would not admit" (635-7).
      While the two subjects--astronony and passion--which dominate Book VIII seem at first sight to have little in common, their relationship is of considerable importance.   In the first place, knowledge (exemplified by astronomy) and passion are established as appetites which must be controlled and kept within [136] proper bounds.   Both unbridled speculation and ungovemed passion are sinful and threaten man's decreed growth toward God.   Secondly, the two topics focus on different aspects of man's dual nature. As Castiglione had asserted over a century before Milton began Paradise Lost, "Man of nature indowed with reason, placed (as it were) in the middle betweene these two extremities, may through his choice inclining to sense, or reaching to understanding, come nigh to the coveting sometime of the one, sometime of the other part."23   Sharing his physical senses with the creatures below him and his reason with the angels above him, man--that "great and true Amphibium"--may sink toward the beasts in passion or rise toward the angels in understanding; but excess in either direction is unlawful.   And so it is that Adam learns in the astronomy discussion that it is sinful to attempt to become more than man by pursuing forbidden knowledge; and in the discussion of passion he learns that it is equally improper to become less than a man by pursuing blindly his brutish instincts without the restraining hand of reason.   Adam, in short, must neither a Faustus nor an Antony be.   And thirdly, the discussions in Book VIII prepare the way, poetically,24 for the falls of Adam and Eve.   In the amalgam of reason and passion that makes up the two different sexes, Adam represents reason modified by passion and Eve passion exalted by reason.   However, the overreacher theme--first discussed in Book VII with Eve present--anticipates Eve's fall, which results from an unbridled appetite for knowledge; Adam, on the other hand, falls by surrendering his will to his passion and his admission of unregulated passion to Raphael is thus proleptic of his transgression through uxoriousness.   Ironically, then, the traditional roles of the human protagonists are reversed in the Fall:   Eve, the inferior being, characterised more by passion than reason, sins by trying to become more than human by seeking forbidden knowledge; Adam, the rational principle, sins in becoming less than human by rejecting reason for passion.   Their transgressions--Eve's attempt at divinity and Adam's submission to sense--thus become violations of the systematic government of universal degree; and, as Shakespeare notes in Troilus and Cressida, the intricate hierarchical structure of "degree, priority, and place" is upset with fatal consequences when lower beings usurp the rightful functions and stations of their superiors, or vice versa:   "Take but degree away, untune that string,/ And hark what discord follows." (I, iii, 109-10)
  [137]     The controlled images of appetite that we have been tracing in Books VII and VIII rise to their climax in Book IX.   Satan's temptation of Eve is expressed in terms of appetite.25   When Eve, surprised to hear "Language of man pronounced/ By tongue of brute" (IX, 553-4), enquiries of serpent-Satan how he came to acquire the power of speech, he replies that the fruit of a certain tree is responsible.   He was drawn by the sweet odour, "Grateful to appetite" (580); and

To satisfy the sharp desire I had
Of tasting those fair apples, I resolved
Not to defer; hunger and thirst at once,
Powerful persuaders, quickened at the scent
Of that alluring fruit, urged me so keen.           (584-8)

And the gratification of physical appetite led immediately to that of intellectual appetite:

Thenceforth to speculations high or deep
I turned my thoughts, and with capacious mind
Considered all things visible in heaven,
Or earth, or middle, all things fair and good . . . .           (602-5)

The conjunction of food and knowledge as appetites recalls to the reader, though not to "unwary" Eve, Raphael's earlier warning that "knowledge is as food, and needs no less/ Her temperance over appetite" (VII, 126-7).   Led on by curiosity and the tempter's flattering sophistries, Eve finds herself at the foot of the forbidden tree at an awkward time of day:

Fixed on the fruit she gazed, which to behold
Might tempt alone, and in her ears the sound
Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregned
With reason, to her seeming, and with truth;
Mean while the hour of noon drew on, and waked
An eager appetite, raised by the smell
So savoury of that fruit, which with desire,
Inclinable now grown to touch or taste,
Solicited her longing eye . . . .           (735-43)

[138]   She rehearses Satan's arguments, as though to confirm them in her own mind, and then "her rash hand in evil hour/ Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate" (780-1).   Oblivious to all else, her whole attention is centred on the satisfaction of physical and intellectual appetite:

                    Back to the thicket slunk
The guilty serpent, and well might, for Eve
Intent now wholly on her taste, naught else
Regarded, such delight till then, as seemed,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so, through expectation high
Of knowledge, nor was godhead from her thought.     (784-90)

Her selfish desire is without bounds--"Greedily she engorged without restraint" (791)--and at the very outset of her postlapsarian career she compounds her transgression by adding to disobedience the deadly sin of gluttony.
      Sated at length, her selfish thought turns to Adam, and the jealous fear that he may wed "another Eve" and "live with her enjoying" (828-9) prompts the further selfish determination that he must fall too.   Adam however, needs no convincing--for idolatrous passion wins an instantaneous victory over reason:   "How can I live without thee . . . ?" (908)   In the fall of Adam, as in that of Eve, unbridled appetite looms large in the imagery.   Eve offers her husband the fruit with "liberal hand" (997), and

                 Adam took no thought,
Eating his fill, nor Eve to iterate
Her former trespass feared, the more to soothe
Him with her loved society, that now
As with new wine intoxicated both
They swim in mirth, and fancy that they feel
Divinity within them breeding wings
Wherewith to scorn the earth . . . .           (1004-11)

Their gluttony issues, however, not in flights of speculation, but in the satisfaction of a more mundane appetite--an appetite particularly well suited to one who has lost all through passion:

[139]                       he on Eve
Began to cast lascivious eyes, she him
As wantonly repaid; in lust they burn.       (1013-15)

And they are no more temperate in sexual indulgence than in their edacious licence with the interdicted apples:   "they their fill of love and love's disport/ Took largely" (1042-3).   But the fruits of lust are measured not in delight, as was formerly the case with their love-making, but only in "grosser sleep/ Bred of unkindly fumes" (1049-50) and in troubled dreams.
      Waking from sleep, the guilty pair attempt to hide their shame with "broad smooth leaves" (1095), but they can no more hide themselves from God or from themselves with fig-leaves than Satan can escape the burning hell he carries within him by vain attempts at flight.   They wake to find their eyes opened and minds darkened; and lust and shame give way to mutual recrimination in a passage where the images of raw appetite and intemperance culminate in anguished awareness of a guilt which they are powerless to remedy or purge:

They sat them down to weep, nor only tears
Rained at their eyes, but high winds worse within
Began to rise, high passions, anger, hate,
Mistrust, suspicion, discord, and shook sore
Their inward state of mind, calm region once
And full of peace, now tossed and turbulent:
For understanding ruled not, and the will
Heard not her lore, both in subjection now
To sensual appetite, who from beneath
Usurping over sovereign reason claimed
Superior sway.           (121-31)26

As Balachandra Rajan comments, "They cannot revoke the defiance of order which they have set in motion, they cannot rewrite and they can barely recollect the law of nature which their transgression has defaced.   Within the microcosm chaos is come again and degree is suffocated in lawless, murderous misrule."27   They have irreparably rent the veil of innocence protecting them from ill and have leapt forth, shorn of strength and native [140] righteousness, into a self-ordained life of degradation and depravity and death.   And Milton closes this book that has told of man's first disobedience and the sins that blasted human bliss and potential, with one savage and tragic pun:   "Thus they in mutual accusation spent/The fruitless hours . . . . " (1187-8).


After the completion of "the mortal sin/ Original" (IX, 1003-4) the vocational emphasis in Paradise Lost shifts abruptly from self-regulating generation to divinely directed regeneration.   In Books IV-IX Adam and Eve are themselves charged with the responsibility--and glorious opportunity--of completing the work of generation begun at their creation by working out their own destiny and earning heaven by their own merit.   In Books X-XII, however, the initiative for self-development is lost completely and the task of restoration and growth is achieved ab extra, for the renovation and regeneration of fallen man is the work of God alone.   Once his faculties of free will and right reason (lost at the Fall) have been partially restored by prevenient grace--the first step in his supernatural renovation--then postlapsarian man is able to co-operate in his regeneration, but he cannot himself contribute in a positive way to it.   If he continues to respond to the vocation by which God invites him to accept regeneration, his reason and will are strengthened and he grows progressively towards God as the divine image is gradually restored in him--but this work of restoration depends entirely on divine initiative and on imputed righteousness, neither man's own energy nor merit having any place in the process.   This is, essentially, Milton's view of renovation and regeneration in De Doctrina Christiana28--and these doctrines are elaborated poetically in the last three books of Paradise Lost, where the pattern of Adam and Eve's postlapsarian education traces the ascent from death and despair to life and spiritual rebirth.
      Book X of Paradise Lost is concerned with the immediate effects of the Fall.   The action in this book is dramatic and fast-moving with rapid changes of locale--from heaven to earth to hell, then back to heaven, and finally to earth again.   At the cosmic level these scenic transitions draw attention to the universal implications of the Fall and, as well, to the ironic reversal whereby evil, [141] even as it seems to triumph, is made to recoil upon itself.   But the cosmic sweep of the action, important as it is, must not be permitted to obscure the importance of what happens in the hearts and minds of the newly fallen human protagonists.   Almost half of Book X is devoted to Adam and Eve's response to their situation, and the two sections which take place in Eden--the judgment scene (90-228) and the first stages of regeneration (720-1104)--mark the beginnings of their postlapsarian education.
      As Book X opens, God decrees the "mortal sentence" on man for his transgression and transfers the task of judgment itself to His "Vicegerent Son".   Christ responds immediately to this vocation--

Father Eternal, thine is too decree,
Mine both in heaven and earth to do thy will
Supreme, that thou in me thy Son beloved
Mayst ever rest well pleased--           (68-71)

and descends to earth to pass judgment on Adam and Eve.   But his mission is two-fold, for he comes as "mild judge and intercessor both/ To sentence man" (96-7).   In dramatic terms this duality of function is of great importance, and the effect of the scene depends on the reader's approaching it from Adam and Eve's perspective.   They appreciate the Son's role as judge because the inevitability of judgment for their transgression has been revealed to them (VIII, 323-36); but they do not yet know of the Son's role as mediator and of the possibility of restoration that he will earn for them. The significance of this point will be clear if we look briefly at the episode.   When the Son arrives in Eden and calls to Adam and Eve, the guilty pair, knowing (as it seems to them) exactly what is in store, promptly hide themselves and at last emerge from the sheltering thicket with something more than reluctance:

Love was not in their looks, either to God
Or to each other, but apparent guilt,
And shame, and perturbation, and despair,
Anger, and obstinacy, and hate, and guile.         (111-14)

It is not only guilt and shame that shows in their faces; in their total depravity they have acquired the truculent and deceitful [142] qualities of Satan--obstinacy, hate, guile--and they share too his despair.   They have also inherited the Arch Fiend's technique of equivocation, although they are not yet practised enough to use it adeptly: Adam attempts to prevaricate with his judge but is quickly forced to confess his transgression--though not his guilt:   "She gave me of the tree, and I did eat" (143).   Eve, in turn, blames the serpent:   "The serpent me beguiled and I did eat" (162).   Although the Son formally passes sentence of physical death on them, it is clear from their responses that even before the indictment is pronounced they are spiritually dead--a state which Milton defines as characterised by "the loss of that divine grace and innate righteousness by which, in the beginning, man lived with God" (DDC, I, xii; YP, VI, p. 394).   Sunk in self-willed depravity, they are incapable of any but selfish thoughts and actions; the divine image in them is wholly defaced, and they are powerless to restore it either in part or in whole.   Absolute degeneracy is the merited fruit of their sin; and they deserve the sentences served on them:   for Eve, pain in childbirth and subjection to her husband; for Adam, physical labour and death for himself and his posterity.
      But Christ has come not only to condemn but also to promise restoration.   He anticipates his mediatorial office on two occasions in the judgment scene, but the significance of his words and deeds at this stage is lost on Adam and Eve whose regeneration has not yet begun.   First, he judges the serpent before passing sentence on the human pair, and the judgment of the serpent contains, "Though in mysterious terms, judged as then best" (X, 173), a messianic prophecy:29

Between thee and the woman I will put
Enmity, and between thine and her seed;
Her seed shall bruise thy head, thou bruise his heel.       (179-81)

At this point Adam has no idea what this might mean.   Later, he remembers these words and, although his exegesis suffers from literalism, he experiences the beginnings of illumination (X, 1028-40).   It is not, however, until much later when Michael tells him of the Nativity that Adam understands that Christ is the prophesied "seed of woman" and that the Incarnation signals the time when the serpent "Needs must . . . his capital bruise/ Expect [143] with mortal pain" (XII, 383-4)--though even here he is still disposed to see the contest between Christ and Satan in physical terms, and Michael finds it necessary to explicate the prophecy's spiritual meaning.   To return to Book X: the second prolepsis is the Son's act of clothing the sinners:

              then pitying how they stood
Before him naked to the air, that now
Must suffer change, disdained not to begin
Thenceforth the form of servant to assume,
As when he washed his servants' feet so now
As father of his family he clad
Their nakedness with skins of beasts, or slain,
Or as the snake with youthful coat repaid;
And thought not much to clothe his enemies:
Nor he their outward only with the skins
Of beasts, but inward nakedness, much more
Opprobrious, with his robe of righteousness,
Arraying covered from his Father's sight.         (211-23)

The significance of this event is lost on Adam and Eve.   They know that the Son has clothed them in a physical sense, but they do not yet understand the spiritual meaning of his act because the Covenant of Grace has not been revealed to them.   Only when Michael explains the doctrines of justification by faith and of imputed righteousness (XII, 402-35) will Adam come to appreciate fully how Christ, as Mediator, clothes man's inner nakedness and covers his spiritual blemishes with his robe of righteousness to make the sinner acceptable in his Father's sight.
      The judgment scene, then, serves a double purpose.   On the one hand, it fulfils the demands of divine justice; on the other hand, it anticipates--albeit in veiled terms--the process of divine mercy by which good will be brought out of evil.   Moreover, the scene is intended as a dramatisation of fallen man's vocation to salvation:

                    the voice of God they heard
Now walking in the garden, by soft winds
Brought to their ears, while day declined, they heard,
And from his presence hid themselves among
[144]   The thickest trees, both man and wife, till God
Approaching, thus to Adam called aloud . . . .         (97-102)

Sunk still in carnal self-interest and lacking any faith in God's goodness and mercy, the human pair do not respond willingly to this calling.   At this stage, before their regeneration has begun, their depravity and darkened reason (symbolised by the declining day) blind them to the Son's charitable purpose, and in the voice borne to them by "soft winds" they hear only accents of doom.   For Adam and Eve here, as later for Simon Peter on the occasion when Jesus becomes a servant to wash his Disciples' feet--Milton's allusion in lines 214-15 is not without its point--the spiritual significance of Christ's symbolic acts of calling and purifying sinners (whether by washing their feet or clothing their naked bodies) is not understood:   "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt hereafter." (John 13: 7)   Grace is offered before man knows that he requires it.
      The first stages of Adam and Eve's regeneration are dramatised at the end of Book X.   The section opens with Adam's long soliloquy (720-844)--a speech that Kester Svendsen denominates the "tragic recognition scene" in which Adam confesses his guilt and accepts it as justly his.30   In this dramatic monologue Adam Agonistes, surrounded by the mounting chaos in the natural order as Nature grows red in tooth and claw, turns inward in anguished self-examination:   "He has nowhere to turn and no one to turn to except his conscience.   His sense of guilt is his only companion, and he wrestles with it as with an adversary."31   Reason (partially restored by supernatural renovation) and passion struggle for supremacy within his breast, and reason is confirmed and strengthened as it answers the objections raised by selfish passion.   But reason's victory at this early stage is largely pyrrhic, for Adam's recognition of guilt--

On me, me only, as the source and spring
Of all corruption, all the blame lights due--         (832-3)

is a conviction earned only at the price of hopelessness, terror, and despair:

O conscience! into what abyss of fears
And horrors hast thou driven me; out of which
I find no way, from deep to deeper plunged!           (842-4)

Outstretched on the inhospitable earth, Adam invokes death and curses his creation, and the entrance of Eve only prompts him to a frenzied denunciation of his spouse and of woman and matrimony in general.   But Eve's penitence and willing--if wishful--desire to take all the punishment for their sin upon herself disarms his anger and evokes his pity.   Passionate irrationality yields to rational assessment of their situation, and Adam's forgiveness of Eve leads him to see that God may likewise forgive him.   They are now truly embarked on the road to recovery.   Adam's faith in God's mercy is an important step forward, for it enables him to place the judgment scene in perspective and to believe in the certainty of salvation even before it is revealed:

Undoubtedly he will relent and turn
From his displeasure; in whose look serene,
When angry most he seemed and most severe,
What else but favour, grace, and mercy shone?           (1093-6)

      In De Doctrina Christiana Milton declares that the effects of regeneration are repentance and faith, and he distinguishes five degrees of repentance:   "recognition of sin, contrition, confession, abandonment of evil and conversion to good" (DDC, I, xix; YP, VI, p. 468).   By the end of Book X of Paradise Lost (as has often been noticed) the beginnings of faith have manifested themselves in Adam and Eve and, as well, the human pair have risen up the first three rungs of the ladder of repentance:

                  they forthwith to the place
Repairing where he judged them prostrate fell
Before him reverent, and both confessed
Humbly their faults, and pardon begged, with tears
Watering the ground, and with their sighs the air
Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign
Of sorrow unfeigned, and humiliation meek.           (1098-1104)

But it must be remembered that regeneration (the product of faith [146] and repentance) is contingent upon renovation, and renovation is the work of God alone.   By supernatural renovation God restores some measure of fallen man's free will and reason, and it is only because of this divine activity that

Thus they in lowliest plight repentant stood
Praying, for from the mercy-seat above
Prevenient grace descending had removed
The stony from their hearts, and made new flesh
Regenerate grow instead . . . .         (XI, 1-5; italics mine)

By natural renovation (vocation) God calls upon men to accept His offered grace.   Refusal is always possible; however, if a man responds to grace, his partially restored faculties are strengthened and he grows gradually towards God as the divine image is restored in him.   The renovation of Adam and Eve begins in the judgment scene with their calling to Christ and the gift of imputed righteousness; it proceeds as they start to respond to the divine initiative and to show the early signs of faith and repentance at the end of Book X; and it is brought to completion as Adam continues to co-operate with grace in his responsive obedience to Michael's revelations in Books XI and XII.
        Knowing how "variable and vain" is man's heart if "Self-left", God sends Michael to earth on an errand of justice and mercy:   he is to expel the sinful pair from Eden, but he is also instructed to bring them to a full spiritual understanding of their promised redemption.   However, while the command of expulsion is absolute, the decree of mercy (since it depends on man's willing response) is conditional:

If patiently thy bidding they obey,
Dismiss them not disconsolate; reveal
To Adam what shall come in future days,
As I shall thee enlighten, intermix
My Covenant in the woman's seed renewed;
So send them forth, though sorrowing, yet in peace.   (XI, 112-17)

Theologically, Michael's mission is necessary, for the remaining stages of Adam's repentance (abandonment of evil and [147] conversion to good) cannot be accomplished without revelation.   In the fallen world, where good is only known by evil (that is, by conscious separation from evil), Adam must be educated both in the forms of evil with all their baits and seeming pleasures and also in the forms of goodness and its rewards.   Only after he has learned the worst that Satan, Sin and Death have to offer and after he is aware of the full significance of Christ's atoning sacrifice is Adam in a position to choose rationally between good and evil.   A full understanding is the necessary prerequisite of informed choice, and it is with the object of providing Adam with this understanding that Michael reveals to him the course of human history.
      Although Michael's pedagogical mission is necessary from a theological point of view, its artistic importance (and success) has frequently been questioned and most of the three centuries of readers lying between us and Milton have been disparaging in their comments on Books XI and XII.   The tradition extends from Addison, who lamented that "the Author has been so attentive to his Divinity, that he has neglected his Poetry", to C. S. Lewis, who argues that "Such an untransmuted lump of futurity, coming in a position so momentous for the structural effect of the whole work, is inartistic".32   Recent criticism has done much, however, to achieve a more balanced perspective, and Milton's art and architectonic skill in the last books have been ably defended by F.T. Prince, Joseph H. Summers, Lawrence Sasek, and H.R. MacCallum.33   These readers have shown that the process of Adam's enlightenment is highly dramatic and have demonstrated how Milton's careful arrangement of historical material creates "a dialectical pattern of ascent which leads Adam from type to truth, from flesh to spirit":

Michael's aim is to bring Adam to a full and spiritual understanding of the Son's prophecy concerning the war between the seed of the woman and the serpent.   He leads Adam toward his goal by a series of graded steps, each one but the last inconclusive, and each consequently capable of misinterpretation.   Yet as he proceeds he does sow within Adam "the seeds of a sufficient determining", so that by the close of the story every part takes its place in a total design.34

The final books are characterised, dramatically and poetically, by the dynamic interaction between the typological progression of [148] the scriptural narrative and Adam's growing vocational awareness and conviction as he responds to the unfolding history of the world.   Each new situation presents an opportunity for mistake and misjudgment.   Adam is often hasty and occasionally presumptive in his responses, and Michael finds it necessary to correct and guide him to the proper stance.   However, as he accepts each new experience, Adam's responses gradually sharpen and he becomes more aware of his human responsibilities and more capable of executing those responsibilities.   His developing perception of the prophesied bridge spanning the gulf between human depravity and divine goodness leads from his initial despair over the consequences of his sin and his mounting horror at his descendants' capacity for evil, to a full and personal understanding of redeeming grace and a willing reconciliation with God's providential purpose.
      The stages by which Adam's education progresses have been well documented by the critics mentioned above, and I have here neither space nor reason to rehearse their findings.   There is, however, one point which to my knowledge has not so far been noticed but which, it strikes me, is of considerable importance.
      At the beginning of Book XI the penitent Adam and Eve are compared, in one of the very few classical allusions in the last books, to Deucalion and Pyrrha:

                              nor important less
Seemed their petition, than when the ancient pair
In fables old, less ancient yet than these,
Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha to restore
The race of mankind drowned, before the shrine
Of Themis stood devout.           (9-14)

The prayers of Deucalion and Pyrrha and their earnest hope of restoring their desolate world with divine aid provides an appropriate parallel to the penitent invocations of Adam and Eve whose attention is likewise focused on the future of mankind in a world destroyed by crimes against deity; and, like their pagan counterparts, they hope that the world may be restored through them.   Nevertheless, despite its importance as an index to the immediate situation, the Deucalion allusion serves another--and more significant--purpose in the structure of the closing books of Paradise Lost.   [149]     For the seventeenth-century reader the reference to Deucalion would immediately call to mind the figure of Noah, of whom Deucalion was the mythic analogue.   The identification was conventional in the period:

Who doth not see drown'd in Deucalions name,
(When earth his men, and sea had lost his shore)
Old Noah . . . ?35

Milton stresses the correspondence, and it is clear that he intends the early reference to Deucalion and "The race of mankind drowned" as a prolepsis of his later account of Noah and the Flood.   Deucalion's "devout" prayer to Themis on Mount Parnassus prefigures Noah's "uplifted hands, and eyes devout" (XI, 863) on Mount Ararat, and the oracle from the goddess in the classical myth parallels the signs vouchsafed to Noah in the form of a dove and a rainbow arching in the cloudy sky (XI, 857-62).   Moreover, as Ovid declares of Deucalion that non illo melior quisquam nec amantior aequi/ vir fuit (Metamorphoses, I, 322-3), so Michael denominates Noah the "one just man alive" (XI, 818) and Adam rejoices on hearing of

        one man found so perfect and so just,
That God vouchsafes to raise another world
From him, and all his anger to forget.36           (XI, 876-8)

But Noah, of course, is traditionally a type of Christ:   the covenant with Noah anticipates (albeit imperfectly) the Covenant of Grace, and the flood which destroys all save Noah and his family looks forward to that time when "this world's dissolution shall be ripe" (XII, 459), when the sinful earth shall be wasted by fire and the righteous received into eternal bliss.   And it is not surprising to find that Milton's account of the Flood is, as H. R. MacCallum demonstrates, "resonant with typological implications".37
      The figures of Deucalion, Noah and Christ, then, form an allusive triptych38 involving three hills (Parnassus, Ararat, and Calvary), three distinct yet related covenants between God and man, and three new beginnings for mankind where, in each instance, the central figures stand poised between "the world destroyed and world restored"--a redemptive point from which man proceeds "as from a second stock" (XII, 3, 7).39 Not only are [150] Deucalion, Noah and Christ symbolically linked through situation and imagery, but also--and this is the most significant point--they appear at moments of great structural importance:   Deucalion at the beginning of Book XI, Noah at the end of Book XI, but his influence spills over into the opening lines of Book XII, and Christ at the end of Book XII.   Through these strategically placed narratives Milton establishes a subtle and elaborate framework for the entire historical account recorded in the last two books of Paradise Lost.   The three stories are not isolated and discontinuous, but cumulative and organically related; their significance, like Adam's spiritual growth, is realised only as process.   The ascent implied in the movement from the pagan fiction of Deucalion, to the historical narrative of the patriarch Noah, to the fulfilment of these prefigurative types in the life and work of Christ, provides a graded symbolic frame that parallels the progression from "shadowy types to truth, from flesh to spirit" (XII, 303) which constitutes the pattern of Adam's spiritual and educational experience in the closing books of the epic.


[Click on asterisk (*) at the end of a note to return to the point you left in the text]

  1. [219]

  2. Aubrey says that Paradise Lost was begun about two years before the Restoration, that is, about May 1658.   Milton's anonymous biographer, however, says that composition was begun shortly after the publication of Pro Se Defensio in August 1655.   (See Darbishire, Early Lives, pp. 13, 29.)   Tillyard (Milton, 1966 edition, pp. 165-6) argues persuasively that "the serious beginnings of Paradise Lost are to be found in the state of mind that prompted the Defensio Secunda [1654]".   There is no chance of certainty on the question of when composition actually began; however, the poem's emphasis on individual vocation and regeneration--themes central to the prose works of 1659-60--incline me toward a 1658 dating. *

  3. Tillyard, Milton p. 250. *

  4. The quotations are from Areopagitica (YP, II, p. 554), Eikonoklastes (ibid., III, p. 601), and the second edition of The Readie and Easie Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (ibid., VII, p.463). *

  5. Although the idea of a "fit audience, though few" can be traced as far back in Milton's writings as Prolusion I (cf. YP, I, pp. 218-20), it does not become a [220] central aspect of his thought until it is connected with the doctrine of the regenerate remnant in the prose works of 1644-60.   The mature theory takes its point of departure from the statement in the preface added to the revised edition of the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (February 1644) where Milton, having experienced the slings and arrows of the Westminster Assembly for daring to publicise his views on divorce, declares to the Long Parliament that "I seek not to seduce the simple and illiterat; my errand is to find out the choisest and the learnedest, who have this high gift of wisdom to answer solidly, or to be convinc't" (YP, II, p. 233).   The theme is further developed in Areopagitica in terms of the fitness of individuals to discriminate for themselves between good and evil:   "To the pure all things are pure [Titus 1: 15], not only meats and drinks, but all kinde of knowledge whether of good or evill; the knowledge cannot defile . . . if the will and conscience be not defil'd." (Ibid., p. 512).   After 1644, the "fit audience" theme is almost a commonplace; Milton addresses his remarks only to the regenerate, only to those who possess the spiritual credentials to understand and accept the truth when it is presented to them.   In Eikonoklastes, for example, he tells his reader that truth must not be smothered, "but sent abroad, in the native confidence of her single self, to earn, how she can, her entertainment in the world, and to finde out her own readers; few perhaps, but those few, such of value and substantial worth, as truth and wisdom, not respecting numbers and bigg names, have bin ever wont in all ages to be contented with" (YP, III, pp. 339-40). *

  6. De Doctrina Christiana was begun about 1655 and, although Milton seems to have continued revising it until the end of his life, the original manuscript was probably completed in 1660.   Paradise Lost, which was begun in 1658 or perhaps earlier in the 1650s (cf. n 1 above), was finished sometime between 1663 (Aubrey's date) and the autumn of 1665 when Milton gave the completed copy to Thomas Ellwood to read.   Since the composition of the two works overlaps, it is reasonable to suppose that his doctrinal position is the same in both--although, of course, certain of Milton's more heterodox beliefs (e.g. his view of the Son) may be played down in the poem to make it more universally acceptable.   There is, however, nothing particularly heterodox about Milton's doctrines of vocation and regeneration in De Doctrina Christiana, and, consequently, there is no reason to think that they have been attenuated in Paradise Lost. *

  7. The "template" approach, first advocated by Maurice Kelley in This Great Argument (Princeton, 1941), has been adopted by a number of recent critics.   See, for example, George M. Muldrow's Milton and the Drama of the Soul (Paris and The Hague, 1970), where Milton's soteriology in De Doctrina Christiana is used as a thematic gloss and structural guide for the last poems.   However, since the technique is less easily applied to Paradise Lost than to Samson Agonistes or Paradise Regained, Muldrow finds it necessary to confine his analysis of the former to Adam's postlapsarian regeneration in Books X-XII and largely to ignore the first nine books of the epic. *

  8. Barker, "Structural and Doctrinal Pattern in Milton's Later Poems", in Essays in English Literature from the Renaissance to the Victorian Age, Presented to A.S.P. Woodhouse, ed. M. MacLure and F.W. Watt (Toronto, 1964), p.171. *

  9. Ibid., pp. 172-3.   See also Barker's later paper "Paradise Lost: The Relevance [221] of Regeneration", in Paradise Lost.   A Tercentenary Tribute, ed. B. Rajan (Toronto, 1969), pp. 48-78. *

  10. Barker, "Structural and Doctrinal Pattern", p. 174. *

  11. See Milton's discussion of the postlapsarian situation in Areopagitica, where he suggests that "perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evill, that is to say of knowing good by evill" (YP, II, p. 514).   In the fallen world, where "Good and evill . . . grow up together almost inseparably", the good is potential rather than actual until it has been consciously chosen over evil, and therefore Milton "cannot praise a fugitive and cloister'd virtue, unexercis'd & unbreath'd, that never sallies out and sees her adversary" (ibid., p. 515). In Eden, on the other hand, goodness per se is not won by trial (though it may be reconfirmed by trial), for it is the natural state of prelapsarian existence. *

  12. For a theological statement of this idea, see Ralph Cudworth's Sermon Preached before the House of Commons.   March 31, 1647:

    Happinesse is nothing but that inward sweet delight, that will arise from the Harmonious agreement between our wills and Gods will.   There is nothing contrary to God in the whole world, nothing that fights against him but Self will. This is the strong Castle, that we all keep garrison'd against heaven in every one of our hearts, which God continually layeth siege unto:   and it must be conquered and demolished before we can conquer heaven.   It was by reason of this Self-will, that Adam fell in Paradise; that those glorious Angels, those Morning-starres, kept not their first station, but dropt down from heaven like Falling Starres, and sunk into this condition of bitternesse, anxiety, and wretchednesse in which now they are.   They all intangled themselves with the length of their own wings, they would needs will more and otherwise then God would will in them:   and going about to make their wills wider, and to enlarge them into greater amplitude; the more they strugled [sic], they found themselves the faster pinioned, & crowded up into narrownesse and servility; insomuch that now they are not able to use any wings at all, but inheriting the serpents curse, can onely creep with their bellies upon the earth.   Now our onely way to recover God & happiness again, is not to soar up with our Understandings, but to destroy this Self-will of ours:   and then we shall find our wings to grow again, our plumes fairly spread, & our selves raised aloft into the free Aire of perfect Liberty, which is perfect Happinesse . . . .   God will not hurt us, and Hell cannot hurt us, if we will nothing but what God wills.   Nay, then we are acted by God himself, and the whole Divinity floweth in upon us; and when we have cashiered this Self-will of ours, which did but shackle and confine our soules, our will shall then become truly free, being widened and enlarged to the extent of Gods own will. (The Cambridge Platonists, ed. C.A. Patrides [London, 1969], pp. 98-9.) *

  13. Barker, "Structural and Doctrinal Pattern", p.172. *

  14. Fish, Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost (London, 1967; London, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971), p. 184. *

  15. "Raphael learns much in his effort to respond adequately to his call.   His [222] effort fails . . . because he does not yet understand the meaning implied by the Son's willing response to the call to sacrifice and so (blushingly) cannot quite explain the implications of angelic and human love.   Yet he learns much, both from his own rehearsal of the War and Creation, about justice and mercy and the Son, and from Adam's responsive relations and doubtful or wondering questions and his own answers." (Barker, "Structural and Doctrinal Pattern", p. 187). *

  16. For an excellent analysis of the Son's mutability and deepening vocational awareness, see Stella P. Revard, "The Dramatic Function of the Son in Paradise Lost: A Commentary on Milton's 'Trinitarianism'", JEGP, 66 (1967), 45-58. *

  17. The theme of the reader's vocation and education has been thoroughly and sensitively investigated by Stanley Fish in Suprised by Sin (1967).   I have little to add to his account, and such points as I do wish to add may best be incorporated in the discussion as it proceeds, since they could hardly justify their existence in a separate section. *

  18. Lewalski, "Innocence and Experience in Milton's Eden", in New Essays on Paradise Lost, ed. Thomas Kranidas (London, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1969; reprt. 1971), p. 88. *

  19. Ibid., p. 94. *

  20. Ibid., pp. 116-17. *

  21. Lewalski, who develops this point with the aid of a number of examples from the poem, concludes:   "Each new situation in Milton's Eden is an opportunity to grow in wisdom, virtue, and perfection, and normally Adam and Eve must take the initiative in interpreting what happens to them and in seeking new knowledge and experience.   Normally, too, they respond to a new situation by one or two false starts or false guesses before they find or are led to the proper stance.   But this human growth by trial and error, like the excessive growth of the Garden, is wholly without prejudice, so long as they prune and direct and reform what grows amiss." (Ibid., pp. 99-100) *

  22. Barker, "Structural and Doctrinal Pattern", p. 189. *

  23. Browne, Religio Medici (Everyman ed.; London, 1962), p. 39. *

  24. Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, trans. Sir Thomas Hoby (Everyman ed.; London, 1959), p. 304. *

  25. A growing number of Milton's readers in recent years have argued forcefully that anticipations of the Fall are proleptic only for the fallen reader; for Adam and Eve, yet sinless, such incidents as Eve's dream or Adam's dangerous stabs at forbidden knowledge are completely without prejudice and function as corrective guides to right action rather than indications of sullied innocence and anticipations of the Fall.   Arthur Barker puts the case cogently and succinctly when he writes that "Every prelapsarian action in Paradise Lost is so far from foreboding the Fall that it stands in the sharpest continous contrast with it, to underline the fact that the Fall is, as to right action, a parodic obliquity and anomaly" ("Structural and Doctrinal Pattern", p. 190).   I endorse this position unreservedly, in its application to Adam and Eve; however, since Milton is addressing the fallen reader in the poem, it is equally true that he provides numerous incidents which, for the reader, prefigure the "inevitable".   Moreover, as a conscious and careful artist, Milton must prepare for his climax by using controlled proleptic [223] themes and images. *

  26. Satan had prepared the ground for this approach much earlier, in Eve's dream-temptation:
                    he drew nigh, and to me held,
    Even to my mouth of that same fruit held part
    Which he had plucked; the pleasant savoury smell
    So quickened appetite, that I, methought,
    Could not but taste.           (V, 82-6) *

  27. The word "appetite" is used only twice in the poem after this passage.   In Book X it is connected with gluttony and delusion and is applied (in ironic reversal) to Satan and his minions:
                              greedily they plucked
    The fruitage fair to sight, like that which grew
    Near that bituminous lake where Sodom flamed;
    This more delusive, not the touch, but taste
    Deceived; they fondly thinking to allay
    Their appetite with gust, instead of fruit
    Chewed bitter ashes . . . .           (560-6; italics mine)
    In Book XI it is applied to the victims of excess confined to the lazar-house:   "Their maker's image . . . / Forsook them, when themselves they vilified/ To serve ungoverned appetite" (515-17; italics mine).   Adam is shown this vision of the lazar-house's "monstrous crew"--men deformed and diseased through gluttony--in order that "thou mayst know/ What misery the inabstinence of Eve/ Shall bring on men" (475-7). *

  28. Rajan, Paradise Lost and the Seventeenth-Century Reader (London, 1947; reprt. Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1967), p. 76. *

  29. For a more detailed examination of Milton's position in De Doctrina Christiana, see Introduction, esp. pp. 4-5. *

  30. In De Doctrina Christiana, I, xiv Milton explains the reason for this veiled prophecy:   "For in pronouncing punishment upon the serpent, at a time when man had only grudgingly confessed his guilt, God promised that he would raise up from the seed of the woman a man who would bruise the serpent's head, Gen. iii. 15.   This was before he got as far as passing sentence on the man.   Thus he prefaced man's condemnation with a free redemption." (YP, VI, p. 416)   For the tradition treating Genesis 3: 15 as a messianic prophecy and its relevance to Paradise Lost, see John M. Steadman, "Adam and the Prophesied Redeemer", SP, 56 (1959), 214-25; and C.A. Patrides, "The 'Protevangelium' in Renaissance Theology and Paradise Lost," SEL, 3 (1963), 19-30. *

  31. Svendsen, "Adam's Soliloquy in Book X of Paradise Lost" (1949), in Milton: Modern Essays in Criticism, ed. Arthur E. Barker (New York, 1965), p. 329. *

  32. Ibid. *

  33. Addison, The Spectator, no. 369; Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost (Oxford, [224] 1942; reprt. New York, 1961), p. 125. *

  34. Prince, "On the Last Two Books of Paradise Lost," Essays and Studies, n.s., 11 (1958), 38-52; Summers, The Muse's Method (London, 1962; reprt. 1970), pp. 186-224; Sasek, "The Drama of Paradise Lost, Books XI and XII" (1962), in Milton: Modern Essays, ed. Barker, pp. 342-56; MacCallum, "Milton and Sacred History: Books XI and XII of Paradise Lost," in Woodhouse Festschrift (above, n 7), pp. 149-68. *

  35. MacCallum, "Milton and Sacred History", pp. 159-60. *

  36. Giles Fletcher, Christs Victorie, and Triumph (1610), Pt. ii, St. 7, in The Poetical Works of Giles Fletcher and Phineas Fletcher, ed. F.S. Boas, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1908), I, p. 59. *

  37. The theme of the "one just man alive" serves, of course, as a leitmotiv through the last two books of Paradise Lost, but it is nowhere as fully developed as in the case of Noah.   Although implied in the cases of Abel, Enoch, Moses, Joshua and David, it is made explicit only in connection with Abraham (XII, 113) and Noah (XI, 719-26, 808-18, 874-8, and 890). *

  38. MacCallum, "Milton and Sacred History", p. 155. *

  39. Similar figural triads--each involving a figure in Graeco-Roman mythology, a type under the Old Dispensation, and the antitype in the New Dispensation--occur relatively frequently in Milton's later poetry.   See, for example, the Proserpine-Eve-Mary triad in Paradise Lost (IV, 268-72 and V, 386-7).   Often these figures are of great structural importance, as in the case of Sonnet 23: cf. my paper "'Alcestis from the Grave': Image and Structure in Sonnet XXIII" in Milton Studies, 10 (1977), pp. 127-39.   Undoubtedly the most complex example is the Hercules-Samson-Christ figure in Samson Agonistes where the triad is implicit but never explicitly set out and where the allusive triptych is mirrored in the play's structure--a Greek form, a Hebrew hero and story, and a Christian theme. *

  40. The phrase used here to describe Noah had earlier been applied to Christ:   "all men . . . in thee/ As from a second root shall be restored" (III, 287-8).   Deucalion is likewise linked with global restoration in the phrase "to restore/ The race of mankind drowned" (XI, 12-13). *

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